The enemies of freedom (if there are any in heaven) are shaking in their boots, because heaven just gained another U.S. Marine.
Lt. Col. Raymond J. O’Leary, USMC Ret., fought his final battle and is now at rest, having passed away on Jan. 24, 2019, surrounded by loving family.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Rita and they are now enjoying their retirement together, along with their son Sean.
Ray’s sister Marie (Roland) Peters of Canton, Ohio survives him. Numerous nieces and nephews from his sister Marie’s family survive him as well.
He also leaves three sons – Michael (Sandi), Kevin, and Tim (Peggy), and two daughters – Patricia and Kathy (Gene) Saghi; as well as seven grandchildren – Andrew (Emily), Erin (fiancé Daniel), Melissa (Jacob) Kraft, Tim Jr. (fiancé Lauren), Jeno, Jake (fiancé Sydney), and Rachael; and four great-grandchildren – Kaden, Kaison, Colbie and Jackson, to continue the good fight.
Ray was born at St. John’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 10, 1925, to William and Isabel (Schmuck) O’Leary. After receiving a solid Catholic education at St. Ignatius High School, he ventured into the world.
When he was finally of age, he eagerly joined the U.S. Marine Corps to defend freedom and fight for the country he loved. Early in World War II, Ray became a merchant seaman, first on the Great Lakes, and later sailing on merchant ships across the Atlantic, in the effort to keep Great Britain from being starved by the German Navy.
He made several crossings during the worst time of the war, while German submarines were sinking hundreds of ships. Decades after the war, Ray was decorated for this service. He was awarded the Atlantic War Zone Medal, the Victory Medal, and the Merchant Marine Emblem.
In 1943, Ray left the Merchant Marine and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served with distinction in the campaign to liberate the Philippines. After the war, he obtained his bachelor’s degree at John Carroll University.
In 1952, he once again joined the Marines, this time as a commissioned officer. He served in Korea as an infantry officer, and was perhaps the very last Marine officer wounded in the Korean War.
After the Korean War, Ray continued to serve in the Marines, first as the Marine Recruiting Officer out of Indianapolis, in charge of the entire state of Indiana. After the recruiting duties, Ray was commander of the 1st Marine Recon Company on Okinawa.
Following Okinawa, Ray transferred as the Marine Option Instructor for the Miami University NROTC Unit in Oxford, Ohio. There he oversaw the education of more than two dozen men who were to become Marine Officers – and who achieved a distinguished record both in the Vietnam War and later in the struggles in the Middle East.
From there Ray was once again posted to lead Marines in combat – this time in Vietnam. Having risen to the rank of Lt. Colonel, he commanded the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.
His final assignment was to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. During his career, he received a number of awards including the Letter of Commendation with Combat V, the Purple Heart, the WWII Victory Medal, the Navy Unit Citation, the Korean Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and a number of other accolades.
After 25 years, he retired from his beloved Corps and moved his family to Dayton, Wyo., where he followed his dream of being a cowboy. He worked on the Padlock Ranch for 10 years, starting on the cow crew and working up to helping manage the cattle operation. During that time, he and Rita purchased and ran the Dayton Mercantile, supplying the town with jeans, fishing poles, greeting cards, hamburgers and milkshakes.
From there he focused his time and energy on teaching American history and government, and working on the chain gang during the football games at Tongue River High School for 13 years. He was still in contact with many of his former students.
Ray went on to give back to his community by serving on the Sheridan County District 1 school board, Dayton Volunteer Fire Department and the Dayton Town Council.
He loved his family and his country, followed closely by American history, auto racing, horses and cows. He made annual trips to the Indianapolis 500 for 40-plus years, allowing many of his friends and family to join him on his pilgrimage. Along with the annual trips to Indianapolis, he began to regularly attend the “Daddy of the All” Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo, making the trip south for 40-plus years as well.
Ray was a respected scholar on the Battle of the Little Big Horn and shared his knowledge by giving lectures and tours to various military members as well as civic organizations. He was an active member of the Little Big Horn Battle Association. Ray also co-authored a book of Wyoming History titled “Frontier Wyoming,” along with Bob Edwards and Mel Gerhold.
A rosary and prayer service will be held at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Cody on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 10 a.m. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Holy Name Catholic Church in Sheridan, Wyo., at 11 a.m., followed by a military honors burial service at the Dayton Cemetery.
As Ray would say, with his favorite toast, “Here’s to those who wish us well, and those who don’t, can go to hell.” Semper Fi.